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SFS Annual Meeting

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TROPHIC NICHE DIFFERENTIATION WITHIN FRESHWATER MUSSEL COMMUNITIES

Freshwater mussels occur in dense speciose communities. While all freshwater mussels occupy the same trophic guild unclear to what degree species are differentiated. We investigated whether freshwater mussel species had undergone niche differentiation or if traits have been conserved, and whether patterns were consistent among communities. Individuals of the most common species were collected from eight sites along the Sipsey River, AL, we also collected seston and benthic organic matter at these sites. Samples were run for ?13C and ?12N. Gill tissue was collected from a subset of individuals, which we used to determine cilia density using scanning electron microscopy. Using standard ellipse area (SEA) we determined trophic niche width and overlap. We found that freshwater mussels did partition into trophic niches based on isotopic signature within site, but species trophic width was variable across sites. There was also differentiation of gill structure within communities, this differentiation was consistent across sites but cilia density varied among sites. Our findings suggest that freshwater mussel do partition into niches to limit competition locally, but diet and gill structure is flexible based on available resources.

Brian van Ee (Primary Presenter/Author), University of Alabama, bcvanee@gmail.com;


Carla Atkinson (Co-Presenter/Co-Author), The University of Alabama, carla.l.atkinson@ua.edu;